16x hidden gems & activities in Barcelona

Curious about special places in Barcelona that are hardly ever visited by tourists? The real hidden gems you encounter off the beaten track or fun things to do off the beaten track? Then check out this top 16.

1. Carretera de les Aïgues

For a fantastic walk with views of the city, this is the place to be. The Carretera de les Aïgues is an old waterway, where you can now enjoy walking or cycling. Imagine yourself in nature and there is a good chance of encountering wild boar. Since it is so high up, you have wonderful views of the entire city. You can walk further up to Tibidabo, or just down to the Gràcia neighborhood. You can easily get here by metro. Then transfer to a cable car and voila, you’re at the top! The route is also fun by bike.

2. Street art viewing in Poblenou

In the center of Barcelona you come across street art everywhere, but did you know that Poblenou is the city’s street art neighborhood? This neighborhood is largely tourist-free, so it is perfect for escaping the crowds. Go out and spot the most beautiful works of art!

3. Visit local bars

Of course, there are endless bars, restaurants and trendy hotspots in Barcelona where you can go for a bite to eat or a drink. But are you curious about the local bars where the locals like to go? Here are a few tips: Bodega marin (Gràcia), Bodega Armando (El Raval), Quimet Quimet (Poble-Sec), Vaso de Oro (La Barceloneta)

4. Museu Frederic Marès

A personal favorite: this museum houses the collection of the now deceased collector Frederic Marès. What exactly did he collect? A little bit of everything. And that’s what makes this museum so special. It is located in the middle of the Gothic Quarter, but it is never crowded. It also has a fine courtyard garden, with an excellent terrace for a nice cup of coffee.

5. The amphitheater – Teatre Grec

How special: in the old amphitheater at the foot of Montjuïc you can sit down with friends both during the day and at night. Bring a beer and a snack and you have a nice quiet spot, sometimes even to yourself. Once in a while there are performances in the theater, so it is highly recommended to attend one.

6. Visit the modernista hidden gems

The works of Puig i Cadafalch are worth a visit. This modernist architect was responsible for the appearance of many buildings in the city. Some of them you can visit: Casa Amatller is particularly special. This house has been preserved in its original state (complete with furniture). But also Casa de les Punxes is a striking building from the outside, reminiscent of a medieval castle.

A building by Gaudí which is less known is Casa Vicens. Gaudí’s style here is very different from his other works. This is because this was one of his first works.

7. La hora del vermut (vermouth as an appetizer)

The locals love it: vermouth. But don’t order your “vermú” at the bar in the evening. You should drink this aperitif at the weekend before the extensive midday meal, so around noon. The Carrer del Parlament in Sant Antoni, the foodie street of Barcelona (where mostly locals come), is the perfect place for this. By the way, this is a very pleasant street anyway, where you can also get a lot of other delicious drinks and snacks.

8. Squares in Gràcia

The village of Gràcia has countless cozy squares with restaurants and bars. Wander around the cozy streets and see how the locals live and enjoy on the terrace. Of course, this is also the place to go for a good Vermut ;).

9. Cactus garden on Montjuïc

Cactus garden on Montjuïc Barcelona
Cactus garden on Montjuïc Barcelona

Are you at Montjuïc? Then don’t skip a visit to this beautiful park full of cacti from all over the world. It is located against the flanks of city hill and usually it is very quiet here. The park is not far from the city center, but I recommend combining this outing with a visit to Montjuïc.

10. Monastery of Pedralbes

A beautiful monastery, actually completely unknown among tourists. This fourteenth-century structure is one of the highlights of Catalan Gothic architecture. When visiting the monastery, you get a glimpse into the lives of the women who lived here for six centuries. So very special.

11. La Caseta del Migdía

As far as I am concerned, this is the place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. This vantage point sits right behind the castle on Montjuïc. You’ll find a terrace (identified by the Moritz chairs) and a small house with a kitchen. For €12 you have a “barbecue plate” with Catalan sausage, bread and vegetables. Take a seat and chill out. Next door is a small field with picnic tables and pine trees. So you can also choose to bring a sandwich.

Read all about Montjuïc

12. Torre Collserola

You can visit the communication tower of the Collserola for a fee and from here you have at least as nice a view as from the Tibidabo, with the difference that there is probably no one else there (or only a few other visitors). A fun experience, especially for the advanced Barcelona goer.

13. Shop at the Els Encants flea market

Els Encants is not exactly a run-of-the-mill flea market, but for bargains, this is the place to be. The mirror-roofed area alone is worth the effort. You will find many different fabrics, clothes and knick-knacks. Locals love to come here. Other flea markets are also organized in the city. My favorite is Lost & Found in the train station França (during warm months in La Barceloneta by the sea).

14. Visit a number of cemeteries

Both the cemetery on Montjuïc and the cemetery of Poblenou I think are definitely two special, unknown sights and you can visit them for free too. It’s probably a lot different than what you’re used to!

15. Visit the lesser-known neighborhoods of Sants, Les Corts or El Clot

You can also find beautiful squares, cozy market halls and authentic streets outside the well-known tourist areas. For example, take a look in the neighborhoods of Sants, Les Corts or El Clot. Perfect to discover for those who already know the more famous neighborhoods through and through, or if you really want to dive into the life of a local.

16. Catalan traditions

The Catalans keep some special traditions: for example, they build human towers and giant parades are regularly held. If you have the chance: witnessing these traditions is very local (though crowded). Watching giants is always possible: at La Casa dels Entremesos in El Born (Plaça de les Beates 2). Also very nice to go with children.